Happy Birthday, Mr President

Right off the bat, HAPPY HOLIDAYS! I know mine were fantastic, filled with family and presents and food and fresh blankets of snow. I hope yours went equally swimmingly, and that you’re returning to the interwebs refreshed and full of vivre for the new year to come.

We just got back the other day, and have been in a sort of self-absorbed coma trying to regain our equilibrium. It’s quite the shock to return from the fun of Colorado house-hunting, family time, snowshoeing, and watching Willie romp in the snow to the drear of a silent house in Texas. One that needs cleaned, and has a dried-out Christmas tree shedding needles all over the dining room carpet. So much WORK.

So I’ve ignored the work for the past couple days. I’ve made due with Chipotle and PeiWei and microwave Amy’s Organic burritos (delicious). I’ve played a lot of video games, and I’ve gotten 10 hours of sleep a night, or so. I’ve worn nothing but pajamas, and haven’t put on makeup.

Until today. Today I had the pleasure of driving down to WhoFo for fresh produce and dairy (can’t live on frozen burritos for too long, or you’ll get scurvy or something). I love WhoFo, and they had fresh truffles, again, which fill me with something like oxytocin, or the “bonding hormone.”

But then I had to go over to the base to get my bacon fever vaccine (H1N1). I’ve been really eager to get it, since I like to imagine myself surviving various outbreaks of disease that wipe out entire populations. Robert Malthus has predicted it so. Plus, I found out there is a nasal spray version, and that seals the deal.

I don’t do needles. Never have. There is a hole in the bathroom door at my parents’ house from the last time I was almost tricked into going to the doctor for a booster shot, and I had to kick it to make my point. I think that was 8th grade, maybe. I’m still reduced to tears by any potential blood draw or needle stick or finger prick that is suggested to me. Actual, sobbing, semi-hysterical tears.

So I cheerfully waited in my husband’s office while he grabbed the nasal spray, which I administered to myself because I have a firm believe that bodily functions, including any potential nose-running, should in no way involve the knowledge of my spouse. No way was I letting him shoot liquid into my nose, nor was I planning on waiting in the crazy line at the actual shot clinic. I got my things to leave while he entered confirmation of my vaccination into the computer system.

Imagine my dismay when he said “about your tetanus vaccine…have you had one in the last ten years?” He knows damned well I haven’t. He knows that I cannot remember the last time I had a tetanus vaccine, and that it was probably 15 years ago at minimum. This is something we’ve argued about since we met. He thinks I should be current on tetanus, and I think it’d be lovely to have lockjaw because I’d probably lose weight. I also think it’d be lovely not to get the vaccine that has been voted “most painful” by basically everyone in the universe. He looked at me hopefully, and I acquiesced, thinking I might as well do it while I was all psyched up and already at the clinic and before I could chicken out. Piss.

Immunological rape, that’s what it is. When you show up expecting a harmless nasal mist and instead get toxic, painful fluid shot into your tricep. Not okay.

So now I’m sitting in my house, cradling my arm like a five year old after a skiing accident, and waiting for the pain to kick in fully. It’s been twinging since before I even got the vaccine.

While I wait it out, I figure it’d behoove me to throw down some facts about food in the Quantico region of the US, since I had promised my lil’ bro, and I’ve almost entirely lost interest in that project. I’ve got cool new Christmas gadgets to play with and blog about!

Anyway, since Washington, D.C. is a possible next base for us, and since Quantico is where my brother will definitely be, since he’s ignoring our recommendations to run away from the military as fast as his legs will carry him, before he commissions, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t examine the food scene a little.

First thing’s first: Washington D.C. is like a big neon sign that blinks in a bar window, saying “Terrorists: stop here!” Any time I spend living there, outside of the odd vacation, is the safety equivalent of giving Osama Bin Laden a lap dance with “Hooray America!” nipple tassels stuck to my chest. I would spend the entire four year stint being terrified every time I heard a plane or a siren or an old beater car backfiring in the street three miles away. And maybe any time the icemaker in the fridge dropped some fresh cubes.

That said, there is some hella food in D.C. And Quantico is less than an hour from D.C. To review the food scene at actual Quantico would involve me listing the number of Burger Kings and Godfather’s Pizzas they had on base, which would bore both of us. Internet reviews also suggest there is a “Command Post Pub” and “General Java,” which would be sad were it not quite so hilariously representative of the entire military base culture of pumping themselves up and giving themselves the reacharound. Basically, “Amurrica, FUCK YEAH!” It’s how they compensate for the sheer number of devastatingly low ASVAB scores.

Anyway, I have faith that my bro will be able to trek away from base for some remarkable grub. And I know that I would do the same. Grocery shopping can take place in WhoFo, Dean and Deluca, Roots, and Bloom. There are farmers markets coming out the kazoo, and to be totally honest, Baltimore isn’t that far away either. An hour and a half. Which means I fully expect an awesome Ace of Cakes cake at some point while he’s stationed there. Or every Saturday, if we’re stationed there.

It’d be difficult to justify cooking at home, though, for two reasons.

1) D.C. hosts a number of fantastic restaurants, including CityZen, L’Auberge Provencial, TenPenh, and the Capitol Grille. And if famous restaurants aren’t your thing, consider the ethnic diversity of the city. You could trip on a stray sesame seed outside a chinese restaurant, only to land with your feet at the door of an Indonesian Bistro and your face smashing the concrete outside a Scandinavian breakfast spot. I can’t think of a cooler food surrounding, really, than to have access to every ethnic cuisine imaginable, as well as the ingredients to make it at home. You’d be hard-pressed to find it outside of major metropolises.

2) The houses are laughably tiny. Seriously. A $420000 house in a decent location will give you 3 bedrooms and two baths in a tiny condo, with a crockpot plugged into a closet for the kitchen. You may or may not have a roof, but that roof won’t protect you when the terrorists come anyway, so you can just let that dream die. It’s awesome. I guess the assumption is that most people in the D.C. area will be far too busy doing important things like legislating and lobbying and cupping the balls of old, right-wing senators while they preach about the sanctity of marriage to spend any time in their actual homes.

Despite both of these downfalls, it was EASY to find a representative recipe for the region, and it was damned delicious if you want my humbug opinion.

Senate Bean Soup

1 smoked ham hock or, better yet, shank
2 lbs navy beans or great northern beans, rinsed, sorted, and soaked
4 qts water
1 onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1/2 t thyme
s and p to taste

Simmer ham hock or shank with water and pre-soaked beans until the beans are just tender (about 2 hours). Brown the onion and carrot together in butter, and add to the soup. Remove ham and pull the meat off into bite-sized pieces. Set the bone aside, if you wish, for another time. It can be reused to make ham stock. The meat should go right back in the soup. Add thyme, salt and pepper and simmer another 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and a salad.

Easy, right? And relatively low-calorie. It fills you up with protein and fiber, but is mostly liquid and bean so won’t make you chunk out like a jar of Jiffy peanut butter. The ham is delicious, and really assertive, but the little shreds of meat aren’t substantial enough to add much to the final calorie count. I know, you don’t care. But it’s nice to know sometimes, right? So you can polish off a bottle of white with your meal and be like, “I’m totally still at a calorie deficit, because I’m basically eating bean water.”

Senate bean soup was invented at the Senate cafeteria, and has achieved notoriety from either Senator Frank Dubois of Idaho or Senator Joseph G. Cannon–there’s some debate–walking into the cafeteria and saying “Thunderation, I had my mouth set for bean soup! From now on, hot or cold, rain, snow or shine, I want it on the menu every day.” What we can really learn from this is that “Thunderation” is an AWESOME swear word. And that senators get whatever the hell they please, despite being unable to enact any real change because of interparty bickering and general ne’erdowellingness. But bean soup remains delicious.

So whomever is stationed in or near D.C., be sure to get some authentic bean soup, or make it at home and then go out and get something at least remotely interesting to eat. Probably from the Scandy restaurant. Go Nordies!

Pros and Cons of D.C. area

Pro: Lots of great grocery stores
Con: Pantry is so small that Harry Potter would reject it as a sleeping cupboard

Pro: Lots of great restaurants from which to chose
Con: You probably can’t even get IN to a McDonalds without wearing Dolce and Gabbana, as I’ve heard it’s a pretty dressy city who may not appreciate my version of dressy is when my sweatpants are Abercrombie instead of Nike.

Pro: Interesting mix of people who can each contribute some great ideas and diversity to your personal global view
Con: Terr-rists.

Pro: Culturally rich epicenter of US History
Con: Terr-rists.

Pro: Multiple opportunities to make out with Obama, who is still kind of a babe for being a president, and also is just a good person whom I adore
Con: Terr-rists.

So, D.C. Rock on with your bad self. You’ll be hearing from my brother soon, and possibly from me. He’ll be at Quantico, and I’ll be in a bunker somewhere, far beneath the city, trying to get Dean and Deluca to deliver me ham shanks for my soup.

11 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Mr President”

  1. I am currently eating an Amy's microwave meal and it was delicious. Also, this sounds like your best option so far, so I'll pray you end up here if Colorado can't work. I am, however, still praying EXTRA hard that you end up here. On a side note, I recently got an air popper for my popcorn and it always makes me think of our visit to you. :)
    Love you,
    Laurel

  2. Also, I realize the tense of the first sentence changes halfway through and I apologize. I meant I am currently eating an Amy's microwave meal and it is delicious.

  3. Lockjaw: best diet ever. :)

    Seriously, though, how awesome about the possibility of D.C. I loved it there, although it was about 14 years ago when we didn't have any terrorists.

    Anyway, they have a website devoted to D.C. foodies: http://www.dcfoodies.com/
    Not sure if you've heard about it, but it's pretty fun. They have tons of cool restaurants, coffee shops, gourmet food stores, and things like Belgian chocolate stores in Georgetown. And Dean & Deluca is still there too, I think.

    There are some negatives, sure, but it's gotta be a zillion times better than Texas, heh!

  4. Laurel: I hardly even noticed. I just assumed you had finished eating it really fast while you were typing. Now, get some truffle butter from WhoFo and put it on your popcorn.

    John: Awesome website. I think it'd fun, although not as fun as Napa, probably. Honestly, it IS a zillion times better than Texas. We have friends there already, and it's not considered "the south," which is NOT for me.

  5. You could always opt to live somewhere outside of DC. but then it gets real iffy. I wasn't all that impressed with Baltimore, but I think I was on the wrong side of town. You always get a job being a docent at Washington's house and then spend all day in the museum area which is underground. It's like a bunker with culture or something crazy.

    captcha: fostroki…so very engrish.

  6. Also, the last time I got a tetanus shot, I walked around holding my arm for 2 days. I totally felt like a 5-year-old. and by holding my arm, I mean I had my left arm at a 90 degree bend at the elbow, and walked around using my right hand to support my left wrist. because that's how I roll.

    new captcha: ableall. I can't decide if that's a mildly retarded toddler word or some drug that makes you think you can do everything…like cocaine or ritalin.

  7. bethesda is where you want to live. great restaurants, on the metro for easy access to DC, but far enough away to feel safe from most non-nuclear scenarios. and while technically "the south," culturally it really isn't. neither is northern virginia, if you ask me. you have to go down to a pancake house just north of richmond that has "catfish 'n eggs" on the menu in order to be in "the south," in my opinion. happy new year!

  8. Hi, I am reading this bunkered down in the freezing cold in NW DC and laughing!! It is true that everytime I hear a loud strange noise I have to stop and calm myself down, and then think through all the logical explanations for the noise.

    As far as food…there are also plenty of Trader Joes for groceries! Yum and cheap.

    I also love Good Stuff Eatery (organic giant hamburgers) on CapHill, Logan Tavern in Adams Morgan, and Rosa Mexicana by Verizon Center.

    Great post!

  9. Washington freaked me out the last time I was there. You're driving through these lovely neighborhoods and then all of a sudden *SHAZAM!!!* Mean looking hobos, barbed wire fences and gold teeth as far as the eye can see. That happened, oh, every two blocks or so. Not cool.

    I love the simplicity of your bean soup. Navy beans are totally my favorite…right after chickpeas. And maybe tied with black beans, because I'm a bit of a bean slut.

    So what's this about you maybe moving back to Colorado? Huh, huh???

  10. 1st) I hope you get stationed back in CO since I know that is where your heart is and where you really want to be. 2nd) however, if the baby Jesus sees it fit that you do come out East to VA, I'm so going to vie for the spot as your "local stalker".

    Love your blog. Thanks for the soup recipe!

  11. Oh DC isn't THAT dresy. lol. Only when you go out at nights on a weekend it's really dressy. And you can actually get some pretty decent houses with size if you don't live in the actual city..I love living here. It's a fun place, always something to do and new to try. You would totally love it here!

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